The one about food, clothes and celebrity vicars

Audio -listen here

It’s that time of year again when our TV viewing is full of food, and dancing,

Great British Bake off seems to have survived the move to C4, though that talking cupcake advert is going to wear thin soon, and I’ll admit to having had a peep at Strictly for the first time ever in order to see  Richard Coles strutting his collar in Ballroom bling.

Kate Bottley has been cooking up a storm in Celebrity Masterchef -also collared -which makes me feel warm even thinking about it to be honest!

Even without clergy colleagues and friends involved there is something compelling about watching people do stuff… getting it wrong and getting it right

And in our heads perhaps we’re thinking…. “Well I wouldn’t necessarily do it like *that*…”

At the beginning of this week I was at a 2 day conference on preaching. ( might have been best not to admit that  this early in the sermon perhaps?!). The speakers and content exceeded my expectations – it was a very inspiring 48 hours,  -but one particularly speaker struck a jarring note with me, as he talked about how to make a good sermon great he outlined some practical and theological pointers, but at times was very clear that he thought that his way of preparing was The way, even  at one point saying “ and if you’re not doing it like this you’re doing it wrong” -you could hear the intake of breath around the room, from an audience of preachers. I’m sure many of them were like me thinking “ well I don’t do it that way..why am I wrong? “

We all can fall into the way of thinking our way is the best way, and even that other ways of doing and being are invalid. Maybe it’s politics or driving styles, cooking, DIY…. You name it

In today’s passage from Romans Paul addresses the tendency of the Roman Christians, and indeed all of us, to be intolerant of difference.

He’s speaking particularly about the food arguments – not the best way to avoid soggy bottoms, but the arguments in the early church about eating meat (generally because it would have had a pagan dedication, because of the way the slaughterhouses were run) and those who chose to not eat meat to avoid that .

It was an argument that divided the church, Peter had had his dream when God told him that all foods were clean, but the Jewish dietary laws still were regarded by many as binding,  and the issue of slaughtering prayers and methods added a new dimension.

Paul says “God has welcomed (them all) who are you to pass judgement,

We need to take this to heart – God has welcomed them..

He welcomes everyone, whether they like classical music or heavy rock,

High mass or charismatic free worship.

He welcomes priests investments and priests in jeans, and priests who wear both

Children, adults, quiet ones and noisy ones

Suits and tattoos, and both together,

vegans and junk food fans.

Old people, young people, gay people, straight people, people who don’t know…

Introverts and extraverts,

God has welcomed them, us,  all.

 

At the end of the day we are all accountable to God. It is between him and us. Our habits, our tastes our way of being Christian or being church are all between him and us.

As a teenager in a church that was only beginning to learn this stuff, it was particularly difficult to match up my faith with the judgemental pronouncements of those around me on everything from my clothes to my social life. Thankfully it was a place I’d grown up and people knew me and my family, but for someone  coming in, that sense of not fitting would have been magnified,

And yet I believe God didn’t care if my boots were aggressive or my hair was short,

he didn’t care that my clothes were from Oxfam, or that I went to the pub after church.

God cared that he & I had a relationship, that I knew I was forgiven, that his grace was available to me.

He didn’t even mind that I was beginning to argue with and question the practices and theology of the church I was in,

God has welcomed us all

And the reason he has, is because of Jesus.

Paul tells us we will all stand before the judgement seat of God

But the glorious thing is that when we do we stand there in the grace that is ours because of Jesus.

Because of his death and resurrection

Forgiveness is freely available to us all,

Each ofus.

It is not our job to judge each other, but to love

To accept difference and diversity just as God does

To acknowledge in each other the variety and the creativity, the challenge and the collegiality. To welcome the stranger, to feed the hungry,

Without judgement

To Listen to the voices of those who are not heard, to fight for those who have no advocate,

To work for justice

To learn from each other,

To build up not pull down

In the understanding that we are  all part of the body of Christ,

We are all in this together.

It is never Them & us

But all of us

All of us, standing solely by grace,

All of us,  in need of that grace and forgiveness

All of us bowing the knee before our God, no better, no worse than those we kneel with,

different ways, with different voices, in different clothes and with different lives and yet all one by his grace.

 

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